Saturday, December 3, 2016

2016 Holiday Sale on A Paddler's Journey

It's holiday season again and I'm making it easier to purchase my kayaking memoir, A Paddler's Journey. If you haven't heard me talk about it before, the book tells my story as a kayaker, from a complete novice floundering in the surf and on the river, to a highly respected instructor and expedition paddler. It's about paddling, but really about the journey we all take in life to find what we love, to improve ourselves, and to come to peace with our place in the world. Even if you've never touched a blade to the water you'll understand the action and recognize the lessons learned.

There are a couple different ways to purchase the book in print or electronic form, but the sale prices won't last forever. If you purchase a print copy through the CreateSpace site (a division of Amazon) and use the code XUW6M6ZV you'll get $3.00 off the cover price. That makes it only $9.99!

And if you want a signed copy you can order that through my website. You can even tell me what you want on the inscription and have me mail it directly to someone special as a gift. I have limited stock on hand so first come first serve for Christmas gifts. You'll need to order by 12/15/15 in order to make sure it gets there in time. And if you order in December I'll even through in a free copy of my Paddle California DVD, highlighting some of the best kayaking our wonderful state has to offer.

(with free Paddle California DVD)

The digital version is only available at Amazon and at $2.99  - but for one weekend it's FREE! (only through 12/5/16)

And if you've already read the book, let me know what you thought - I love to get feedback. You can always leave a comment, or if you want to share your thoughts with the rest of the world, consider writing a quick review. (Reviews also help drive Amazon search engines, so just by leaving one you'll help other people find the book)

And for those who missed it the first time, here's the trailer if you want more info on the book itself:

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Kayak Meme Machine 4

Once again, this is to collect some of the memes I've created and shared in other places. You can see more in post 1, post 2, and post 3. Here are the latest:

This is the inimitable Sean Morely in one of the first production versions of the Jackson Kayak Karma RG. He came up to the Mendocino area with a few of the Jackson folks to shoot a promo video. I tagged along to get a few shots of my own - and to try out the boat. Very fun design, but a bit bouncy on big waves.

This photo goes back to before this blog started: 2004, Ecuador. A really fun trip with a lot of cool guys. They didn't really like us riding on top of the bus, but it was crowded and they let us get away with it until we got back into town. Kind of cool that you can use public transportation for shuttle.

And here is my lovely wife demonstrating how to have fun while kayaking: smile and kayak. That's all there is to it.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Kayak Meme Machine 3

Here's a few more of my memes. You can check out the earlier ones at the first post and post two.

This picture was taken on a trip to the Okisollo Wave off Quadra Island in British Columbia. You could sit on the wave all day if you wanted. When we got tired of waiting our turn, we'd drop in and join our friends. Three was a tight fit that never lasted long, but two people could hang out for a while. It looks so mellow, and felt mellow, but the current was eight knots and down in the pocket you were below sea level so it had an eery quality of speed to it. Read more about it in this post.

This one's from Featherfest - the biggest whitewater festival in California on the North Fork of the Feather River. The class V Tobin section is only a mile long and roadside the whole way. Makes for quick laps, easy pictures, and lots of boofs :)

I love this shot I got of a little kid checking out the strange kayakers before we launched off Dillon Beach at the mouth of Tomales Bay (a write-up from the day here). He seemed so happy to check out our kayaks and not at all afraid of a fully geared up kayakers. Hopefully the memory will sit in his subconscious and we'll have a future kayaker a decade from now.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Legend in My Own Mind

We all have egos. Kayakers may be a welcoming bunch, always ready to welcome a new member to the club or show a stranger the line on a rapid. We rib each other over our gaffes, celebrate our swims with a bootie beer, and gather together in some of the most unflattering clothing the world can design. But underneath it all we have a little pride. We want to do well and be known for doing it. I am no different.

My last post was about the love I felt at the Paddle Golden Gate symposium, but one of the best feel-good moments came a bit later. It came from one of my students, an older gentleman who used to paddle whitewater but found himself in a long boat as he slowed down. He brought great enthusiasm to the class and was happy to talk to another river guy. After the event he searched out my book and sent me a quick email relating to one of the stories inside.

Several years ago he found himself in Pasadena, standing next to the Arroyo Seco. He wondered if it might be kayak-able and asked a local friend. He was told it rarely ran, but it had been done in the past. Some locals had done it a few years earlier and apparently had to hike out in the dark, only to find their shuttle vehicle locked inside the parking lot at JPL. But they had kayaked it.

That's chapter 12 in A Paddler's Journey. My first introduction to creeking in California and still one of my fondest memories. Yes, we hiked out in the dark the first day. And our car was locked in. but we built a ramp out of stones to drive out. My buddies were covered with poison oak and we all had blisters the size of softballs on our feet. We came back the following week to hike in and finish the paddle out. Total success.

It's nice to be remembered for what you did, especially if you had fun doing it. I'm glad some of my stories exist in the world even if I'm not there to speak them. Here's what I said about that trip in the book:

When I think of the fun moments that paddling has brought me, the incredible views and exotic locations, one of the first images to spring forth is Andreas and Paul standing arm in arm posing atop a ridge overlooking the lights of a city of ten million people. The closeness and camaraderie we found on the Arroyo Seco is something you don’t get from the picnic grounds or a short hike to the falls. It sets us apart from those who never leave their concrete environment; it makes the hardship and struggle more than worth the effort. I overcame my fear and doubt and re-found myself through kayaking, and nothing would take that away again. 

Thanks, Bix, for making me feel important if only in a little way.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Feeling the Love at Paddle Golden Gate

It's been a couple weeks since the event but I've been on vacation and just found the time to sort through pictures and put some thoughts together. Paddle Golden Gate is an amazing sea kayak symposium put on by my old employer California Canoe & Kayak and my good friend Sean Morley. It's functionally the heir to the Golden Gate Sea Kayak Symposium which was the same basic event run by mostly the same people but under different auspices. Whatever you call it, the event is a gathering of some of the best instructors in the world, some of the most eager and dedicated students, in one of the most spectacular urban paddling environments at the base of the Golden Gate Bridge.

I've taught at the event since the first one back in 2009, and going back each year is like a class reunion - but with only the good people you used to hang out with, none of the annoying folks who you always tried to avoid. Since I moved to the Mendocino Coast a few years ago I teach less often and see my fellow instructors even less frequently, so it was great when I arrived at the Marin Headlands Hostel the night before classes started and I was stopped to get a hug or handshake five times before I could make it the twenty feet to check in and register. Some folks I hadn't seen in months, some in years, but everyone was happy and I spent the next two hours catching up with people before retiring to a surprisingly quiet room (dorm sleeping is all fine and dandy until you get one loud snorer in there).

The first day I got to lead a tour to Angel Island with Sean Finigan. Sean's from my old stomping grounds in Sacramento and we've paddled together a few times but never taught together. We had a class full of folks who, more than anything else, wanted to enjoy a day paddling on San Francisco Bay, most of them for the first time. We had to fight against the current and make a hard ferry across Raccoon Strait, but we were rewarded with a sunny, relaxing lunch in the middle of the Bay - California winter can be grand! After we rode the current back home we had a nice meal at the yacht club and more catching up with old friends and new. Couldn't have been easier.

Day two brought even warmer and sunnier weather, if that was possible. I was scheduled to lead one section of the combat rolling class and traveling instructor extraordinaire Ben Lawry another. We joined forces in the morning to assess and divide up the students which lead to groups divided out by interest and ability, which allowed each of us to really address the needs of our students and everyone seemed to get what they needed out of the day. I got help from another new instructor - Mike Kowalsky. Sometimes it can be a little awkward working with someone you don't know - you step on each other's words, use different sequencing or progressions, etc. - but the whole day went smooth, trading off topics and letting one idea flow into the next. Another great day in the books.

The Saturday evening presentation was at the Bay Model (a very cool place in it's own right). More great food provided by CCK, free beer provided by Ninkasi, and an amazing slideshow and story from Jaime Sharp on his circumnavigation of Svalbard. Brief summary: lots of icebergs, polar bears, and stunning beauty.

The final day was Incident Management, always a fun one. And yet another new instructor for me to meet and work with, this time Martini Ploug from Denmark who was paddling a brand new kayak model from Current Designs. Once again we worked together seamlessly and even had the treat of the Coast Guard joining us for a scenario - pulling an injured kayaker on board their forty-three foot lifeboat. The participants really appreciated the chance to actually make the radio call for help instead of pretending like you do in most classes. And even though the rescue was fairly quick and straightforward, it bought up a lot of thinking points for us to discuss afterward. A great way to round out three days of classes.

Overall it was a great weekend. The classes were fun to teach and the students always eager and ready to soak up more. But what really makes symposiums like this so special is the mood that pervades everything. It's the joy of hanging out with old friends, seeing everyone gear up for their various adventures and then catching up over a beer at the end of the day. It's learning new tricks and tools to better do my job and getting feedback that it is working. It's an immersion in the sport that makes the whole larger than the parts. While Paddle Golden Gate is going to be a biennial event (next one in 2018), I look forward to Oregon's Lumpy Waters in the fall, the ACA PaddleSports Coference here in California, and the Storm Gathering U.S. next year. And wherever you are, look around for opportunities in your neighborhood - Florida, Seattle, Great Lakes, British Columbia, Georgia, Nova Scotia, Israel, Baja, the U.K., and many more. Thanks again to California Canoe & Kayak - it takes a lot of work to make these things happen but it is so worth it!

Friday, February 26, 2016

A Paddler's Journey on Sale for 99 cents!

I taught at Paddle Golden Gate a few weeks ago (pics coming soon - I promise) and I received a lot of kind words from folks who had read my kayaking memoir, A Paddler's Journey. A lot of them said they wanted to share it with their non-paddling friends to let them know why we all love the sport so much. To make that a little easier and help spread the word, I've put the kindle edition on sale - now only 99cents! Only for a couple of days - goes up to $1.99 on 2/28/16 and then back to its regular $2.99 price on 3/1/16. So get it now or let your friends know.

(for a limited time)

I've also extended the holiday sale on the paperback edition. If you purchase it through the CreateSpace site and use the code XUW6M6ZV you'll get $3.00 off the cover price. That makes it only $9.99!

And if you want a signed copy you can order that through my website. You can even tell me what you want on the inscription and have me mail it directly to that non-paddler who you want to understand what's so great about kayaking. And I'll even through in a free copy of my Paddle California DVD!

(with free Paddle California DVD)

And if you've already read the book, let me know what you thought - I love to get feedback. You can always leave a comment, or if you want to share your thoughts with the rest of the world, consider writing a quick review. (Reviews also help drive Amazon search engines, so just by leaving one you'll help other people find the book)

And for those who missed it the first time, here's the trailer if you want more info on the book itself:

Monday, January 18, 2016

Cold Water Vertigo

In a couple of weeks I'll be teaching at Paddle Golden Gate (renamed from the Golden Gate Sea Kayak Symposium). One of my courses will be on combat rolling, so as I was working on my syllabus I figured it would probably be a good thing to get in some rolling practice of my own. I've haven't been paddling that much lately and when I've gone out it's been for fun, not work. And just like any long-time paddler, us instructors can get a little lazy on skill practice - when it's cold out and you don't have to flip over, why bother? So I hadn't done much rolling, especially not in cold water. Time to make up for my laziness.

I went out on the river - the surf was big and nasty - and planned to get in some quick rolls and head back home for some housework and then a hike (getting in shape for a backpacking trip - there's always something to get back in shape for). I wore my drysuit, put on a nice neoprene skull cap under my helmet, even had my pogies on. The weather was mid-50's (this is California, after all) and the water was several degrees colder than that. Not the most frigid conditions for paddling, but cold nonetheless.

I paddled upriver a ways to warm and felt quite toasty before I started some bracing to loosen up and get my face wet. The cold water refreshed me and gave me the usual doubts - did I really need to go over? I did, so I rolled. My left side rolls felt fine. I'm right-handed and learned my right side first, but my left side has always been smoother and easier. I never try to muscle it. My right side worked but didn't feel as smooth. I was fighting it and wasn't sure exactly why it wasn't working so well. I kept rolling, mostly the right, occasionally the left. Over the course of half an ourh I probably did thirty or forty rolls, with some paddling breaks to stay warm.

While I was intent on smoothing out my technique I didn't pay enough attention to my location. I drifted a bit into the shallows and on my next roll attempt I hit the mud with my paddle (side note - diving blade angle not good). I struggled to pull the blade free of the mud and by the time it came clear I was low on air and quite discombobulated. I instinctively set up for a roll on my right side but I had no clue where the surface was and my roll failed completely. I pulled my skirt and quickly wet exited for some air.

In eighteen inches of water it should have been easy to stand, but when I tried to get to my feet I fell right back over. I held on to my boat and anchored a foot in the mud so I wouldn't drift in the mild current. The world continued to spin and after a minute I gave up on the notion of walking and crawled my boat into shore. A couple minutes of rest on solid ground returned the steadiness of the horizon and I was fine.

I've always known cold water on the inner ear could induce vertigo. It primarily happens when cold water gets in one ear and not the other - something facilitated by wearing a hood and twisting yourself upside down underwater. But I've never experienced it myself. I think it's because I don't normally spend that much time upside down. Quite disconcerting.

It wasn't a danger in my case - even though I was by myself, I was smart enough to practice in a protected place near shore. But if it had happened while out in the wild it would have been a different story. The good news about the effect is that it generally goes away once the water in the ears warms up - so even if you're floating in the swell it should subside after several minutes. But that means you have to be prepared to spend several minutes in the water; another reason to dress for immersion.

It's good to have confidence in your skills. It's good to have a combat roll that you believe will never fail. It's still necessary to have backup. It's still smart to practice and keep your experience fresh. Our bodies fail us sometimes, often in new ways we didn't expect, often through no fault of our own. Cold water vertigo seems to become more common as you age - and we're all getting older.

The solution is simple: earplugs. I've misplaced my own or I would have worn them. Not only does it limit the chance of cold water vertigo, it helps to protect the ear from surfer's ear, a much more serious and long-term problem. I'm going out to new earplugs now :)

Friday, January 1, 2016

Kayak Meme Machine 2

Just for the fun of it, I thought I'd take some of my favorite photos and turn them into memes. As near as I can tell, the requirements for a good meme are a square cropped picture, Impact font, and no limitation to facts or common sense. So I'm going to throw a bunch out and maybe they'll spread through the interwebs and bring a little light in the gloom of night. Or at least a chuckle from those who understand. And there are more collections of my Memes: post 1post 3post 4

For the edification of my blog readers, this picture was taken in 2011 at Oceanside, OR. The paddler on the wave is Sean Morley, in the just released P&H Delphin. It was the day after the Lumpy Waters Symposium, the traditional 'Coaches Play Day'. The waves were big, but mostly friendly. A larger set did come in and catch a few of us inside, with one imploded hatch and interesting rescue to follow. Good times.